On the Money

Yuengling's nearly 200 year-old brand is run by a father and his 4 daughters

Key Points
  • For the last 190 years, Yuengling has been continuously brewing beer through slowdowns, wars and even prohibition.
  • The company is innovating, joining the ranks of beer companies that offer seasonal brews.
Yuengling sisters
Yuengling sisters

For the last 190 years, the Yuengling family of Pottsville, Pennsylvania has been continuously brewing beer. It's done so through economic slowdowns, two world wars and even the Prohibition era, making it America's oldest brewery.

During Prohibition, the company survived by serving "near beer" (beer that had 0.5 percent alcohol), as well as diversifying into a new product.

Being in business for nearly 2 centuries "is something that is so special for us, and it's so rewarding to be here and the longer we're involved in the business the more appreciation we have for our ancestors who have survived things such as prohibition," Jen Yuengling told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.

Jen is one of four sisters who make up the family's sixth generation. All four work for the brewery while their father, Dick Yuengling, maintains his title as President and CEO. But the family business wasn't always about beer.

"Our great grandfather had the insight to build a dairy across the street. So we had a creamery business which was successful until about the mid 80s," explained Wendy Yuengling. The sisters admitted that they didn't really see themselves working for business right away.

"We grew up in the 70s and the early 80s, so we went through some down years. We really didn't really start to see a jump in our production until the mid 90s, which was when we were out of college and the timing was right for us to start our careers in the business" said Jen.

Growing competition

Left to right: Jen, Sheryl, Dick, Wendy and Debbie Yuengling
Source: Yuengling

Last year the company shipped 2.2 million barrels from its three breweries (two in Pennsylvania and one in Tampa, Florida), distributing its beer to 22 states in the eastern part of the U.S. The company faces competition not only from big nationwide players, but a growing number of craft breweries.

"There are more 7,000 craft breweries in the U.S. currently operating," Bart Watson, chief economist of the Brewers Association, told CNBC via email. Just 10 years ago, that number was below 2000.

Yet beer's share of the alcohol market has weakened over the last several years as wine and spirit take a larger share. According to The Beer Institute, beer sales made up 54 percent of all alcohol sales in 2002, but that figure dwindled in 2017, down to 46 percent.

Source: Yuengling

The market has made it challenging for brew makers like Yuengling, with its long history and tradition, to draw in new customers. In order to keep up, the company is innovating, joining the ranks of beer companies that offer seasonal brews.

Yuengling's Golden Pilsner is the first year round offering in 17 years — in part an effort to capture those who are looking for a lighter, more refreshing drink, and an opportunity for the brand. The pilsner is 4.7 percent alcohol by volume (ABV), and 135 calories.

"Everybody knows Yuengling for our lager, our light lager, and our black and tan. This is a beer that caters to a refreshment space," Wendy told CNBC.

"For us personally it kind of caters to the types of drinks we wanted to enjoy. It's kind of nice to be able to say we have a beer that caters to every occasion."

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturday at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.